• 08 Sep - 14 Sep, 2018
  • Marjorie Husain
  • Art

“Ankahi is my response to how our original-self collide with with the nature of relationships we have with contemporary urban life. It examines the ever growing tension between urban and natural environment which life always finds is way to exist.”
(Munawar Ali Syed)

It is always exciting to anticipate an exhibition by the unique sculptor, Munawar Ali Syed, one of the most brilliant artists of his generation. His recent exhibition titled, Ankahi, recently held at the Canvas Gallery, attracted a large number of art enthusiasts, as well as painters and art students. His popularity has always been evident with his much admired art pieces examined at length.

One remembers when he arrived in Karachi some years ago as a graduate of NCA, who went to earn a Master’s degree from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, and for one year he taught at Karachi School of Art. He was always full of enthusiasm; for his students and for his art. In those days the biggest problem faced by sculptors was a place to work, but Munawar found a large unwanted cellar somewhere, and he generously invited other sculptors to join him, a venture that lasted quite some time until the owners found a use for the space once more.

Munawar’s art reflects an intellectual insight of a sensitive artist’s view of his life and he is extremely versatile. He works freely with multiple media; with graphite, paint, clay, stone, paper and wood. In his latest stunning exhibition held at the Canvas Gallery, Karachi, he had put together and carved piles of books. Large animals filled with small toys were there and Munawar’s expression moved from wall based artworks to sculpture.

His enthusiastic following, of which there are many, frequently complain that his work is not shown often enough, but he is tremendously busy man; a full time teacher at the IVSAA, as well as a visiting Lecturer at the Karachi University. He enjoys it all. He is a teacher who is enthused by the understanding of his students.

Munawar Ali Syed is familiar to art enthusiasts throughout Pakistan and beyond, with his work in exhibitions showing a unique and definite aesthetic outlook. In one of the artist’s exhibitions, graffiti was the subject he chose to highlight the city, merging paint and script on canvas. Another mood found the artist creating water based work, floating heads with shapes of paper boats worked in fired clay with glaze and aluminum sheets. Whatever media he chooses to express his feelings, one discovers a versatile maturity, portrayed in bold statements depicting the destructive nature of modern times.

The artist’s contribution to the 2017 Biennale was monumental. He had collected his work of many kids together, including artworks, drawings, book and carvings, and wrapped them all together in a sheet of plastic, creating a tree-like monument for the visitors to wonder on. His statement on this particular work was:

“This block of wrapped objects is simultaneously an arrival and a departure from my art practice.”

Working in the third dimension, his work has a maturity of imagery and metaphor that reflects a growing trend of bold statements by artists. The versatility of his work is endless. Important facets of his oeuvre are the brilliant, intensely worked drawings he creates on large scale surfaces, often covering an entire wall. He is a seasoned performance artist, and his experience includes several artists’ workshops including the Burragorang Workshop Australia and International Braziers Workshop, IK. There his work, was exhibited at the Westbury Farm Studios in collaboration with Arts Council, England. In collaboration with British artist Simon Tipping, Syed exhibited a ceramic installation spread over four walls and the ceiling and floor. Hundreds of highly textured ceramic footprints symbolised the crossing of boundaries, the uprooting and alienation that is a common global phenomenon today.

Using varied methods and media to communicate his viepoint, symbolic nuances intervene with tantalising enigma. He is an artist of rare ability and insight who explains his work as a response to the proliferation of mass media, propaganda and self absorbed attitude towards life. •